We are very fortunate to have guest blogger Charelle Lewis provide numerous insights on Career Development for this post and the next. Charelle is a PMI certified IT Project Manager for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Durham, North Carolina. A native of Houston, Texas, Charelle moved to Durham in August 2000 to attend Duke University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. After graduating from Duke, Charelle entered the IT Development Program at GSK. While in this program, she earned her Six Sigma Certification and gained experience as a Business Analyst, Process Improvement Analyst and Project Manager. Charelle then began working in the Strategy, Architecture and Information Group in North America Pharma IT (NAPIT). In this role she served as the Program Administrator for the NAPIT Innovation Team, founded and chaired GSK’s Global IT Innovation Committee, and Co-Founded the Early Career Network for GSK’s Research Triangle Park campus. She currently serves as the Program Manager for the “IT Transformation” initiative which will launch multi-functional Business Service Centers in Kuala Lumpur, Poznan, West London and Delaware Valley. During her 8 year tenure at GSK, Charelle earned a Master of Engineering Management Degree from Duke University.
Career Development Insights – What I Would Tell Myself at 22 (Part A)
by Charelle Lewis
As I continue to progress in my career, I find myself giving advice to not only recent graduates, but frankly anyone who will listen. I am far from an expert in career development, however, as I reflect on my career I can think of so many things I wish I had known when I first started. In an effort to spare others from the pitfalls of my journey, I would like to share the following advice. . .
Get Acclimated As Quickly As Possible
When you start with a new company, it is imperative to get acclimated as quickly as possible. You will be expected to start contributing far before you become an expert in any given area, so you will need to quickly understand the landscape. Start networking immediately! Find a mentor or a buddy that is not afraid to tell you the truth about the Dos and Don’ts. This should be fairly easy since everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, loves to give advice. (Side Note: The quickest way to make a friend is to ask for advice)
Get a clear understanding of the Company Culture and learn as much as you can about the Corporate Politics. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of Corporate Politics as a negative thing, but rather an opportunity to understand the motives and objective of your stakeholders. If you don’t understand the underlying objectives of your stakeholders, you will never be in a position to influence them.
Look for Extracurricular Activities that will expose you to people and areas outside of your immediate group. People come and go and organizational structures change often so don’t get too attached to the group you are initially assigned to. It is also good practice to work in several different areas throughout your career to broaden your network. The broader you cast your net, the better.
Finally, ask about Periodicals on the Industry/ Subject Matter. This will help you bring the big picture into focus by not only giving you insights into your company but helping you understand where your company fits in the broader industry.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
You will never know what you are capable of until you force yourself to move out of your comfort zone. Actively seek-out challenging assignments. Have you ever heard the phrase “All you can do is ask, all they can say is no”? Sometimes understanding the worst possible outcome gives you the courage to ask the question. Don’t shy away from asking for challenging assignments even if you think the answer will be no. Get your name on the “Next in Line” List by asking your Manager, Director, and Vice President to consider you for the next challenging opportunity (and trust me, there is always an abundance of challenging opportunities). Make sure you Manager (and Advocates) know your interest. Most companies have ”Open Door” policies so take full advantage of one on one sessions w/ members of your management. You want to make sure when new opportunities arise in your area of interest, your name is the first thing that comes to their mind.
Don’t be afraid to try things you aren’t sure you will like. Knowing what you don’t like is sometimes more valuable than knowing what you do like. Don’t be Afraid to (respectfully) challenge the Status Quo. Your company hired you for your new ideas and fresh perspectives so don’t be afraid to share them. Remember it is better to phrase opposition/challenges as questions, not statements. Statements make people defensive while questions make people think.
Stay tuned for more advice from Charelle in the next post…